What if I Can't Fast?
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Muslims get excited collectively about Ramadan, but someone who can't fast might be upset because they feel like they can't fully participate in the spirit of the month. But there's good news!
There is something in Ramadan for everyone, and there is a lot in Ramadan that applies both to the fasting person and to the person who is not fasting. Of course, one may not be fasting for a variety of reasons. Some are delaying the fast for a good reason after the month is over, and others will be paying compensation, fidya, instead of fasting. If someone's not fasting, what else can they do to reap the benefits of the month? Well, it is mentioned in traditions that this month is great in and of itself and the good deeds done during this month are rewarded much more than if the same deeds were done during another time. We want to capitalize on that!
It's a good season for doing good deeds. You can read the Quran, remember God, help your fellow human beings, be environmentally conscious, and the list goes on.
During the days and nights of Ramadan, we have to focus on the Quran. It's not only reciting the Quran in the original Arabic if we can, but also studying it in an English translation or another translation, reading commentaries, and getting immersed in the book. Then, there are the special night prayers. One can attend the night prayers of Ramadan either in the mosque or one can do extra prayers at home at night. At night, when the world sleeps and the people in your vicinity sleep, you have a lot of good opportunities to focus on your spirituality and to think about God. All of this is open to everyone, whether fasting or not fasting.
Those who are not fasting may have an advantage in this respect, because those who are fasting may be lacking in energy, especially towards the end of the day. However, if you're not fasting, then you have your usual flow of energy and you can visit sick people in a hospital (if it’s safe for you and them). You can also visit a prison and talk to the people there who may be waiting for somebody to come to talk to them. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to give them a good spiritual message that will be uplifting to them. A lot of people convert and change religion when they're in prison and a lot of people have actually become Muslims while they were in prison.
A personal visit from a Muslim who happens to not be fasting during the month of Ramadan and has the energy to go out and do all of these good things -- that could make a world of difference to a person's life. So, there are a lot of things that people can do!
There are voluntary prayers to be done during the day. We know the five daily prayers, and of course, these should not be missed. It is a given that they must be done. That's the Fajr prayer in the morning, the Dhuhr prayer in the afternoon, and the Asr prayer late afternoon. At sunset, there's the Maghrib prayer, and then late at night, the Isha prayer. There is also the Witr prayer which comes after the Isha
prayer, and that's the last prayer before you sleep. In addition to all of these, during the day you have many different opportunities to offer some special prayers. One of them occurs right after sunrise which is called the Ishraq prayer. Another one occurs later on in the morning -- that's called the Duha prayer, just before noon sets in. You also have the voluntary cycles of prayer that could be in addition to all of the Fard prayer. In the morning prayer, we only have two Rakat, or two cycles, that are obligatory, but we should add another two which is Sunnah. With other prayers, like for the afternoon prayer, there are cycles of prayer which are recommended for before the obligatory prayer, two afterwards, and so on. If we keep doing all of these voluntary and additional prayers, this will be another way of capturing the blessings of Ramadan.
One thing that people try to do is to read the entire Quran during the month of Ramadan. This is easy peasy because it would mean reading 1/ 30th of the book, and that would be 20 pages in many bindings of the Quran. If you think of 20 pages, it might take you about half an hour to 40 minutes depending on how you're reading. Are you reading slow and steady? Perhaps if you're only reading with your eyes, you could be quicker even.
If you divide them up, stop for five prayers in a day, and read four pages after each one of these five prayers, that's your 20 pages done in a day. It will only take you a few minutes each time, in addition to your usual prayers.
In this way, you can read the entirety of the Quran in the month of Ramadan. A lot of Muslims have gone through life and they have never read the whole Quran. This is a travesty. How do we go through life and not read the book of God in its entirety?
The same thing can go for reading the Quran in an English translation. You just read several pages each time so that by the end of the day, you will have read one portion of the whole. By the end of the month, you will have read the entire Quran in the English translation and you will get an understanding of what you're reading. If you don't understand, the emphasis should be on reading with understanding, because the book of God came to us to be understood and implemented. If we don't understand it, we're just reading the Arabic words and thinking that we've done a great job and we sound great - but we don't know what it says and this is a travesty.
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